Ruth Shorey Finishes Well
June 01, 2009 | Featured
By CORE Magazine
When Kevin Shorey was asked what superhero power he would like to posses, his response (after some deliberation) was “being married. The talisman was the ring. But the power came from the assurance and settledness, the anchor of a relationship, a committed relationship. I had a home base to fly from, to draw strength from; Knowing there [would] be a place to go home to.” Kevin is a man who loved his wife passionately. He does not claim he had a perfect marriage, but he elicits one of playful, intimate, and faithful friendship.
Ruth Shorey, Kevin’s wife, died suddenly of a blood clot which moved to her lung and prohibited her heart from working correctly on September 12, 2008. Her tragic death occurred only days after having a successful hysterectomy and gall bladder surgery at Bummrungrad Hospital in Thailand. The Shoreys had moved to China in 2008 so that Kevin could teach 6th grade and Ruth could teach 2nd grade at an OASIS school. Their oldest children—Bethany, K’Leigh, and Jonathan—went to college in the U.S. while their youngest three—Andrew, Timothy, and Wesley—made the move overseas with their parents.
During the process of preparing for surgery and traveling to the Thai hospital, Kevin began a blog in which he chronicles their preparation and health updates. Since the time of Ruth’s death, the blog has become a compilation of e-mails that Kevin has written to friends and family regarding his grieving process as well as updates about the Shorey family. During the time between Ruth’s recovery from surgery and her death, she writes, “…my favorite is sharing everything with Kevin, he is my clown and my cavalier, and I had to tell him to stop making me laugh cause it hurts too bad. He is the quintessential hospital partner.” She then goes on to quote Psalm 34, “He is near to the broken hearted and the crushed in Spirit.” These words—raw, jesting, loving, and cloaked in our Savior—give excellent introduction to Kevin’s e-mails included thereafter.
William Shakespeare wisely advised to “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” The words that Kevin has given to sorrow are beautiful; he has a knack and gift for writing. For Kevin, and in his words, the collection of his e-mails makes up “a story of my grief.” For others, it has become much more—a lesson on marriage, a memoir of mourning, a reason to hope, and even a call to healing. Kevin’s story of grief involves moments of strength, weakness, irony, humor, darkness, and revelation.
In Kevin’s words, believers can find hope and healing. Kevin trudges through the pain and finds something beautiful—a loving God. Following are excerpts from some of his e-mails:
September 18, 2008 (6 days following Ruth’s death)
…it caught me again, like trying to get out of the car with your seatbelt still on. I forget she’s not here until it’s too late to prepare my heart for the jolt back into the car. I just want to get out, but I keep getting called back in.
I don’t mind remembering. I even embrace the sadness at times, so I don’t get hardened and brittle. Brokenness is where the potter can start over. Remake me, Lord, I am broken. I want to stop forgetting so the sadness doesn’t startle me, just gently reminds me to miss her.
…join us in this celebration of a life that brought so much joy and wisdom to so many. Share with us the joy and laughter she brought to us. Cry with us too. It is so sad to go on without her. But she is doing her funny little dance in front of a Savior who she loved so intimately…”
September 30, 2008
Come in Depression, you are not a surprise visitor. Wrap your arms around me; I don’t summon the drive to resist. You are a melancholy sadness without the kindness of tears. A desert. dry, flat, seemingless.
Depression, but not despair. See, Despair is a door in Depression’s house I will to not enter. Despair lures me into a non-life through the portal of self-pity, down the tunnel of dark thoughts and paralyzing fear. It whispers; ‘This is impossible. Don’t go on. Give up. Just stop. Leave. Run away, if not in body, then at least in mind. Go through the motions… who cares…
But a trickling hope is still hope. Because that other voice, the one you’ve heard so often, whispers truth again, “this is hard. go on. look up. Don’t stop - just rest. remain. stand fast, if not like a mighty warrior at least like a stubborn habit. Go through the door...I care, your friends care, your kids care…”
So come in Hope, I’m sure I can find you a room if you choose to stay.
October 10, 2008
Even after I got used to telling it so many times, I still broke down mostly at the words “she was free”. She was free from so many things, not least important, this world. No more stuck here, kept from gazing at one she loves more than me (and I am so glad she does).
She was free from pain, not just the current things she was recovering from, but from all the nagging things like the toes on the left foot that were stepped on by a horse 25 years ago; from the broken finger that never quite healed correctly; from the infrequent shoulder pain; from other things that came and went.
She was free from worry and all the little things that go into planning and orchestrating life each day. She was free from looking at her vitiligo and wishing she were different.
November 13, 2008 (Soon after Kevin and the boys returned to China)
See, what had happened is that through the last three years or so, Ruth and I had built a close friendship as well as a marriage. So when she was gone, I had lost a wife, a best friend and something else. The whole mystery of two being one entails the development of a third personality. There is me. There is her. There is us. Can’t completely explain it. I’ve tried. I guess if I could, it wouldn’t be a mystery.
So I lost her, and we, and a best friend. Wow, I just now realized something else while I was writing this. I lost Us too. For 11 years we have been “8 Shoreys.” Now we are 7 Shoreys.
Us is a different number. In the car. At the table. At the movies. At the restaurant. In the pew. We live with it. As long as we live. As long as we live.
I choose to live.
January 23, 2009
These two things abide with me in the pot. That’s it.
God is good and God is love.
It’s nothing new. Older than dirt. But it’s somehow truer now. More real. Like the velveteen rabbit.
And all that other stuff I worry about, expectations, appearances, advancement; Even whether God planned or allowed Ruth to die.
They all pale compared to the glory that remains.
After all these years, I feel I actually know less about God. But what remains can be trusted. Implicitly. God is love and God is incredibly good.
I’m not just counting on it. I’m living on it. And living in it.
March 11, 2009
I get to teach some of the most amazing students I have ever met. At any time I can hear up to 7 languages in a day. These kids don’t just know about places around the world, they have lived in many of them. I learn so much!
Still trying to figure out what living will look like from now on. All I really know is what today is like and what yesterdays were like. Tomorrow is more of a mystery than ever before.
But it doesn’t have to be as bad as it has been. And it can be better than it was. Learning to just sit here. See what is brought next.
I’ll say it again. I don’t think I know as much as I did before. But what I do know, I know more deeply.
He is good. And he loves me.
And I can live in that. And be sad in that. And grieve in that. And rejoice in that. And laugh again in that.
He is good. And he loves me.
That’s been enough for 6 months now.
It will be enough for tomorrow.
June 4, 2009
Been thinking about a phrase we use a lot. “Finish well.”
Our leaving should be something positive, where we take care of the details, leave things in order, free from worries or regrets from the last place, so we can enter the new job with a clear conscience and a feeling of satisfaction about how we ended the last one.
Over the last several days something has been brewing inside me, a current running under the surface, small bits of thought here and there.
And the conclusion I have come to from that ‘meditation’ is that Ruth finished well. Really well.
There are several “job responsibilities” she fulfilled before she died.
The most poignant are the ways she last said goodbye to each child.
Three older children in the airport in Dallas held her and laughed with her and cried with her. No harsh words, or hard feelings, and few regrets.
The three in Kunming she hugged and kissed as we left for the airport to go to Bangkok for her surgery. Such hopes and expectation for an active mom again. The mom that ran in 10 kilometer runs. The mom that learned to ride a bike at the age of 20. The mom that used to inflict loving amounts of pain on the kids when they tickled her. I warned them. They didn’t listen.
Encouraging emails between the kids and Ruth while she was in Thailand. Lots of love.
And on the debilitating day she died, the ending was not stained with strained relationships with the kids or with me. Instead it was lined with a deeper shade of sadness because of the love experienced in the last weeks.
But mercifully, the weight of regret was not something we had to bear. Freedom coming from a good finish.
The last week we spent together in Bangkok was special before I realised it was the last week. We went shopping, watched movies, read books, talked, laughed, shared, cuddled, made plans for when she was home and well. It was a great time. I really hated to leave to come back, we were having such a wonderful time. She was so loving and funny and beautiful. Encouraging me to go back, that she would be fine. And she had worked with me several days before to talk through an issue, as we did from time to time. She was willing to work at our marriage to make it what it could be. Even when she didn’t feel her best. She finished well as a wife. Very well.
She finished well as a teacher too, leaving her students in good hands and preparing students and substitute for their time together. She worked through the pain and discomfort and continued to be an accomplished teacher right through her last day at school. Her preparation paved the way for a smoother transition for the students and their other teachers. Another job well done.
Ruth also finished well in her devotion and relation to her heavenly Father. Faithfully studying, memorizing scripture, worshipping, learning, teaching, living for a saviour. In fact, the last thing she was doing as the clot moved to her lung was praying. So fitting for her. Communing with the one she loved, even as she was closer than any of us thought to seeing him face to face. Moving from one form of being in his presence to a better. Faithful to the end, faithful in the end.
Mother, Wife, Teacher, Disciple.
“Good and faithful servant.”
Pretty certain those were the first words she heard from the one she most wanted to see. And rightly so. Adds new meaning to that phrase… ‘Finish well.’